The Round the Rock Ultra Marathon began six years ago as Digby Ellis-Brecknell thought it was just a great idea.
Fast forward to the present and ‘Round the Rock’ is a well-loved fixture in Jersey’s sporting calendar, especially for those of a Forrest Gump disposition.
“It was nothing really,” he sad. “I had just completed the ITEX walk around the Island which was non-competitive and I was chatting to a friend Eliot Lincoln. We both agreed, wouldn’t it be brilliant to have a proper, competitive ultra marathon for people who just want to run and run. We thought we would get maybe 15 or 20 takers and in that first year we got 106 runners, over half from outside Jersey and one runner from Japan. We even got two runners from London who were in their seventies! We couldn’t believe it.”
Mr Ellis-Brecknell’s day job is as a welfare officer at Greenfield Secure Unit, trying to turn young people’s lives around. But his full time love is running, always has been, always will be. Life, may or may not be a box of chocolates, but he is definitely the Forrest Gump of Jersey.
“I’m 46 on August 8 just a couple of days after the ‘Round the Rock’ so I have to be a little bit more careful these days, but I do still love running. I just mix it up with a bit of swimming and cycling to try to keep up.
“Recently I’ve started going to a race in the mountains around Andorra and I’m determined to finish it this year. I finished it once and couldn’t manage it the second time so in football terms it is 1-1. I’m absolutely charged up to make it 2-1.”
‘Round the Rock’ is a gruelling 48-miler, but to some of the competitors this year that will seem like a short sprint for a bus.
“Oh, we’ve got people who will hardly break sweat doing 48 miles,” he said. “That’s nothing for them. But for most of us that’s a fair distance and it’s a tough course as well.
“We have had five very successful years and this is the sixth. A couple of years ago an Irishman, Daniel Doherty, did it in six hours 15 minutes so last year we put up a £2,000 prize to anyone who could do it in under six hours, which we thought was a pretty stiff challenge. That’s some going.
“Steve Way and Paul Martiletti, both well-known marathon runners, came over from the UK and smashed it. They managed five hours and 46 minutes running together, so they shared the prize fund. Good on them, as they are both fantastic athletes.”
The race tomorrow starts at 06:00 from the Steam Clock and the finish is in front of La Fregate restaurant on the seafront. Organiser Mr Ellis-Brecknell is expecting around 65 runners for the ultra marathon and seven to eight relay teams.
So what do his two children, an 18-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son make of his running?
“They think I’m a bit bonkers, yes. I do get the raised eyebrow treatment on a pretty regular basis. My son likes surfing, whereas I love to run. In fact, I love a lot of outdoor stuff. As long as I’m outside doing something, I’m very happy.
“Running is a fairly solitary sport. You can be the member of a club but at the highest level you are on your own.
“As long as you enjoy it, it doesn’t matter how good you are. I hope to be still running for a good many years yet, a bit like that couple from London in their seventies! They are amazing, just amazing.
“I suppose running is just something you have in your blood. Unfortunately I won’t be running the ‘Round The Rock’ because I did it one year and also organised it. It was just too much.
“I’ll be there with my clipboard this time, but in truth, I’d rather be running with them. At least I’ve got Andorra coming up soon and the chance to go running in the Pyrenees mountains. Now that’s just perfect.”
From that little acorn grew the oak tree that is ‘Round the Rock.’
“I know,” said Mr Ellis-Brecknell. “You have one crazy idea and it changes your life, for ever.”
For more information on the 'Round the Rock', visit the new Bailiwick Express Events' section here.
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